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posted: 10/27/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Complex problems and the politics of distraction

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  • Sen. Dick Durbin

    Sen. Dick Durbin

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Last week, we used this space to appeal for our leaders -- and the rest of us, for that matter -- to move past ideological boundaries and instead strive to work together to craft comprehensive, common sense solutions to complex problems.

No sooner had that editorial been published than Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield took to Facebook to decry a purported insult to President Barack Obama by one "GOP House leader." During a meeting with the president, Durbin posted, this unnamed Republican told Obama, "I cannot even stand to look at you."

This prompted CNN to broadcast a piece on how commonplace insults to the presidency had become.

But later in the week, White House press secretary Jay Carney, whom you'd normally expect to support Durbin, said he looked into the matter "and it did not happen."

Despite that categorical rebuff from a friend and ally, Durbin refused to take down his post or to back away from his allegation.

Then, several Republicans blasted Durbin for presumably trying to raise campaign funds with a lie.

Still later, Carney issued a clarification that there had been "a miscommunication" when the White House briefed Senate Democrats about the meeting.

(As an aside: How any of this could have been innocently miscommunicated or misconstrued is a little befuddling. Perhaps a GOP leader had been seated because of a knee injury when the president entered the room and someone interpreted this to mean he couldn't stand to look at him?)

However it was miscommunicated, Durbin nonetheless thanked the White House for its clarification, which he said "explains recent conflicting reports on the GOP quote."

Then, Doug Truax of Downers Grove, who hopes to be Durbin's GOP opponent in the Senate election next year, called for Durbin to return any campaign funds that were generated "off this dubious claim."

Last we heard, there had been no further developments, but maybe we'll all be able to get to the bottom of it this morning on one of the Sunday news interview shows.

This, unfortunately, is how too much of our politics and our news media attention and, face it, most of us in our weaker moments respond to the big problems of the day -- by creating silly new ones that don't really exist.

Most of the energy in the above paragraphs was devoted to political and partisan one-upmanship. No wonder there is so little energy left -- or sense of cooperation -- to deal with the things that really matter.

To Sen. Durbin and others like him who would play political games, let's be bigger than this.

And to the rest of us who would be consumed by them, let's be bigger than this, too.

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